Young Falcons rely on speed

The 2005 season was not exactly a walk in the park for BGSU football when they were on the defensive side of the ball. This season they may have to rely on some younger players to change their fortunes.

The Falcons 6-5 record and absence from the post-season may have been a sign that scoring is not everything in football. BGSU gave up 27.6 points per game. That ranked seventh in the Mid-American Conference.

One reason was the inability to stop their opponents from running the ball down their throats. The Falcons allowed 174.7 rushing yards per game last season, which ranked 8th in the conference.

This year’s defense returns four starters. That will put some pressure on the coaching staff to find the right players to fill the seven new spots on defense. Coach Gregg Brandon has faith that the players will reduce that pressure as much as they can.

“We had a great off-season,” Brandon said. “We have the most players in the history of the program that can do the bench press test. We also have the fastest team that we have had since I’ve been here. There are a lot of things from a physical standpoint that get me excited about this team.”

The Falcons have some definite promise in some of their prospects. DJ Young is a 6’5″ defensive lineman who could see playing time this season at defensive tackle.

“DJ [Young] is an outstanding freshman prospect, he is a good solid player,” Brandon said. “He has the attributes as a freshman more so than any kid we’ve had here before as far as the size you’re looking for and his inside presence.”

If Young does play, he’ll be pairing up with two players who have great experience. Brad Williams is a fifth year senior defensive lineman. He recorded 63 tackles last season, 10.5 of which were for a loss.

The other is senior defensive end, Devon Parks. A defensive leader, Parks was able to record 57 tackles last season, paired with four sacks and three forced fumbles.

There is a possibility that true freshman may be a factor in the linebacker core and defensive backfield as well.

The secondary already features sophomore Antonio Smith, who started every game as a true freshman last year. He had two interceptions and scored touchdowns on both of them. Smith also recovered two fumbles and broke up eight passes to go with 57 tackles on the season. He’ll be the cornerstone of the secondary.

“I have to step up to be a leader,” said Smith. “I expect us to do very well. We’ve got a lot of guys, we’re in great shape and we’re focused, I feel real good about [the defense].”

The secondary has revamped itself to make speed their main focus. The young players that will work into the schemes are geared to make that focus work.

“Our secondary is fast, faster than I’ve seen in the last four years,” said Parks. “These guys are really going to be able to fly to the ball.”

There is confidence that the overall defense will see an improvement this season. The speed they possess gives the coaching staff confidence that they will be able to stop the run this season.

“I think that we’ve improved our overall team speed – definitely more athletic on that side of the ball,” Brandon said. “There was a learning curve for some of the younger players, but there is certainly talent there.”

The Falcons defense will receive its first test on September 2nd against Wisconsin. The Badgers were able to torch BG’s defense for 56 points in last season’s opener, wasting a stellar offensive attack by Omar Jacobs and friends.

Although the youth is a concern, the speed is a confidence builder for the Falcons, setting up what will be an interesting transition year in BG football.